A Texas Rangers offense that has been ice cold at the plate found a magical elixir Sunday afternoon. The lineup matched its season high in runs and produced a season-high 13 hits in a game that the Rangers entered with the lowest batting average in the major leagues.
Such a game should restore confidence and produce optimism that the early-season woes could soon be ending. Such a performance shouldn’t be overlooked, but the pitching debacle at Safeco Field stole the show.
Maybe a horror show is more apt. There’s another kind of show, but this is a family newspaper.
The bottom line is that the Rangers lost a game in which they scored 10 runs and twice led by five as the pitching of left-handed starter Ross Detwiler and eighth-inning ace Tanner Scheppers came up woefully short.
Nelson Cruz, who homered twice off Detwiler, gave Seattle an 11-10 walk-off win with a bases-loaded single with two outs in the ninth inning off Neftali Feliz.
Feliz is an easy target, too, but shouldn’t be. He was asked to record a five-out save at a point in his career when three-out saves are hard enough.
Detwiler, though, immediately coughed up three runs in the third, all on Cruz’s second homer, after the Rangers had just scored seven for him to take a 7-2 lead. Scheppers walked three of the four batters he faced in the eighth while pitching with a 10-6 lead, and all three scored.
Manager Jeff Banister put the biggest bulk of the blame on Scheppers. The guys the Rangers use late with leads can’t melt down, Banister said. They have to throw strikes.
“When you’re up like that, it’s about pounding the strike zone,” said Scheppers, who was making his second appearance after starting the season on the disabled list. “It’s unfortunate to put Feliz in that situation. I just didn’t to my job today.”
Detwiler didn’t either. He’s 3 for 3 this season — three starts, three bad outings.
After the Rangers’ biggest inning in 366 days, Detwiler opened the Mariners’ third by issuing a walk to Austin Jackson. After Rickie Weeks flied out, Robinson Cano singled, Cruz homered, and Kyle Seager and Justin Ruggiano singled.
That was enough to bring on Anthony Bass, who bolstered his case to be in the rotation with 3 2/3 scoreless innings of long relief. Bass has a 3.14 ERA after 14 1/3 innings and has simply been better than Detwiler, who is 0-2 with a 10.95 ERA in 12 1/3 innings.
Banister, though, said that Detwiler isn’t going to the bullpen, where he spent last season with Washington and would fill a needed role as the Rangers’ only lefty reliever.
“We’re going to continue to work with Ross,” Banister said. “We’ll continue to have him go out there and start and look for him to go out and get better.”
Detwiler, who allowed five runs, said that he discovered a mechanical flaw while watching video that could help him be a ground-ball pitcher again. If he sticks in the rotation, he would start again next weekend in Anaheim.
The problem facing the Rangers is that they don’t have many viable options to replace him.
Bass or veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez at Triple A should be entering the daily conversations of Banister and general manager Jon Daniels. They waited until mid-May last year before pulling the plug on the Robbie Ross rotation experiment. Scheppers, the Opening Day starter in 2014, pulled his own plug when his elbow was injured.
“I reserve the right to continue to evaluate every decision,” Banister said.
There was little to worry about on offense, for a day. Down 2-0, the Rangers collected seven hits in the third. They weren’t all screamers — though Jake Smolinski’s two-run homer was thumped — but an offense that entered with a .201 average will take just about any kind of hit.
The Rangers added three more runs in the sixth, including one on an RBI single by pinch hitter Mitch Moreland, to make it 10-5.
Shawn Tolleson allowed one run in the seventh, but a 10-6 lead still should have been enough cushion.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760